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napa river kayak travel

Kayak Travel with a Pet


For many pet owners, the opportunity to share an experience with their animal companion can be difficult to find, beyond simply going for a walk. Kayaking, unlike many activities, is something that can be enjoyed by pets and people alike! Whether your friend is furred or feathered, kayak travel with a companion can be a rewarding experience. It goes without saying that a successful kayaking endeavor with a pet will require more forethought and effort, and the rewards of bringing your friend on an adventure are absolutely worth it. Unsure how to start planning your kayak excursion with your pet? Here are our helpful hints to ensure you have a “pawsome” time!

dog kayak travel

Sparky surveys the way ahead

Is your Good Boy Good Enough?


While we all love our pets, the reality is that not every one of them is suited to kayak travel. The first step in planning a trip is to determine whether or not your pet is a good companion to bring on the water. Almost any type or breed of animal has the potential to be a good kayaking friend, and the determination will primarily be based on the temperament and level of training your pet possesses. There are several key factors to keep in mind when determining if your pet has the correct temperament; here are some questions to aid in that decision:


  • Can your pet sit relatively still for several hours? Some of us have enough trouble staying right side up by ourselves, let alone with an animal pacing around the kayak.
  • Is your pet comfortable around water or the outdoors in general? Many pets get anxious around water, and some do when just leaving the house. You want your furry friend to be as relaxed and comfortable as you are, and to not put undue stress on them. There is always the potential to flip in a kayak; if your pet is a confidant swimmer you won’t have to worry if you do go over.
  • Is your pet fully toilet trained? Pet accidents happen, and while they are never fun it is particularly disappointing when they happen in your lap.
  • Is your pet friendly and sociable with people and other animals? Unless you are heading to a remote, wilderness location, chances are you will encounter other like-minded, outdoor enthusiasts, possibly with pets of their own. An aggressive animal will not endear you to them and will significantly increase the paddling difficulty. In addition, you will almost certainly encounter wildlife; if your pet has a strong chase instinct it could lead to some sticky situations.

If you answered yes to all the questions, then your pal might be the purrfect paddling pet!


Let’s Talk Gear

When traveling by kayak one of the major constraints is space for gear and supplies. Adding your pet’s necessities on top of your own can strain the limits of your finite cargo space. Keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to bring your pet. Your bearded dragon might happily hang out on your kayak with you, but it isn’t feasible to bring an enclosure, heat lamp, etc… if you are planning on an overnight trip. Even a small dog will require extra gear to be kept happy and healthy on your adventure, so plan on sacrificing some of your precious space for pet supplies.

Apart from the standard items needed for your pets daily life, there are others you should consider including as well. Even if they are a strong swimmer, a life preserver can save your friend if you end up in the water for an extended period. In addition, most variations come with a handle and leash rings in case you need to grab your pet quickly. Paw protectors are a great addition as well, especially if traveling in areas with sharp, flinty rocks or thorny plants. Whatever you decide to bring, make sure you account for all your pet’s needs so they can have as much fun as you.

Not sure what gear to bring for yourself? Check out our post on What to Wear when Kayaking!

dog unsure about kayak

Rogue was unsure about the kayak. Your pet might need some encouragement at first!

Location, Location, Location

The next step is deciding where to go. Not all outdoor areas are pet friendly, and in some National and State parks pets are expressly forbidden. Thoroughly researching an area beforehand will boost your safety on the trip as well as inform you if pets are allowed throughout your journey. Some wilderness areas also have strict rules about packing out waste, which can apply to pet waste as well. Plan accordingly so that your pet’s waste does not negatively impact fragile ecosystems. Another concern is the difficulty level of the waterways on which you will be voyaging. While your pet might be fine gliding across a glassy lake, even the most sure-footed and balanced companion will have trouble with anything more than class I rapids. You should pick passages with difficulty well within your and your pet’s comfort zones. Keep as many factors in mind as possible when deciding where to go. If your pet is mostly a good boy, but flocks of seagulls bring out the crazy, then a coastal trip probably wouldn’t be for you.

dog ready for kayak travel

Rogue starting to get comfortable

Training and Preparation

It is a good idea to familiarize your pet with being in and around your kayak well before you set out on your journey. While at your house, sit in the kayak and have your pet with you. Let them thoroughly inspect and become comfortable with the craft. Once they are familiar with the kayak, take them out on a day trip to a calm, local waterway so you can observe them. An anxious or jittery pet will need to do several more “training days” before you are both ready for an extended trip. Once they learn that there is nothing to be afraid of your pet will enjoy being on the water as much as you!


Wrap Up

When you take care and properly prepare for your trip, bringing your pet along will greatly enhance your journey. Your companion will get to experience new things and you will have a little heater, or a ball or paws and elbows, to keep you company at night. Paw on, paddle on!

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